By Rick Reynolds
Throughout modern history there have been hot wars, cold wars, undeclared wars, marital wars, and in election years, class warfare–but I’m not just talking about washing machines in general. The hottest, most contentious “Mother of All Wars” war is the Dishwasher War. This underreported conflict has been raging for, well, as long as there have been dishwashers and loaders to load them. Are you a casualty, too?
Some people like me are just naturally gifted at optimizing small volumes for optimal loads. Take the car, for instance. When our daughter went off to college with everything she ever owned, my wife suggested we rent a large U-Haul truck to avoid having to make several trips. Undeterred, I was able to squeeze everything into our SUV (with the exception of our daughter, who regrettably had to take the bus). And when going on vacations, there is no limit to how much stuff I can get into a car–or with Gaffers tape, onto it. His and her dogs, bicycles & kayaks–no problem. And not to brag, but I once brought home an antique couch, jelly cupboard, six Windsor chairs, and crystal chandelier in my 2-seater sportscar–and with only minor damage (mostly to the car behind me).
So when I pack a dishwasher, I use all my analytical skills in an exercise that is part art and part science. Bridging aesthetics with hydrodynamics, I calculate all the angles for a superior wash. When I’m finished interlacing every dish, glass, and pan, one would be hard-pressed to squeeze a credit card between them. What a vision; a perfectly-solved puzzle! I’ll sometimes stare in awe at my work: before me, every dish from a dinner party of 16–joined in one dishwasher load! Now that’s conservation.
So, along comes my wife who without shame or hesitation, moves every single plate, bowl, and wine glass–even the overarching 16-quart lobster pan. Then, in a final act of cruelty, she’ll move the spoons! Now, why on Earth would she move the spoons? And this after I’ve so carefully nested them all into the front-most basket just so the dishwasher emptier (being her) doesn’t have to lean in too far! Make no mistake: this is not your dishwasher-safe war!
Mind you, this does not simply occur with big loads. Even when it’s just a few dishes, she’ll move the cheese grater, flip the carving knives blade down, and remove the arguably flammable wooden salad tongs, just because she can. Even when space is no problem whatsoever, she’ll move my placements. To say it’s a little demeaning to have your efforts tampered with in this way would be a gross understatement. Over time, draconian appliance compliance can drive one into therapy.
In defense of my wife, sure, on occasion with my loading method there might be a stray Corn Flake baked onto the side of a cereal bowl, but hell, it’s sterile! No need to panic. And seeing a tea bag stuck to the teacup after the drying cycle is not the end of the world–the active ingredient is long gone. But my wife will redo the entire load because of one little mishap. It’s not like it’s contagious. The vast majority of dishes have no visible food on them at all. Come on, this is America. This is a democracy. Can’t free loaders live in peace?
My advice to my fellow comrades in the Dishwasher Wars: If it gets too hot, stay out of the kitchen.
Chappaqua alumnus and 35-year resident of Chappaqua, humorist Rick Reynolds resides in southern New Hampshire with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.